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Power

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Do you agree that power, unlike authority, should apply only to relationships where there is a conflict of interests?It could be said, that politics is the studyof the locus of power - where power lies, or should lie. This encompasses all the main questions of political theory: Liberty, in to what extent the state should have power over the individual; justice, in looking at in what circumstances power has been used illegitimately; democracy, inthe mechanisms of how state power should be rightly yielded. Even topics such as the communitarian/liberal debate can be seen to boil down to a question of power, in this case, similar to the study of liberty, the balance between individual andcommunity power is at the core of this question.The question above raises a specific point about the actual definition of power, to what extent is the concept of power inherently linked to a 'conflict of interests'. This question requires a close examination of power itself, and the first step in doing this is to look at Steven Lukes' distinction between one-, two-, and three-dimensionalviews of power.In his seminal work, Power: A Radical View, Lukes goes about deriving a definition of power in three stages. The first is the 'one-dimensional' definition of power. This is based on attempts by political scientists such as Dahl to define power in such a way so that it is possible toobserve how power operates in empirical examples. The core of this view of power isthe statement 'A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B would not other wise do'. This view of power can be described as behaviourist in that it requires acts of power to involve observable behaviour. This observable behaviour takes the form of actual decisions on issues. One other very important aspect of this one-dimensional view that is specifically relevant to this question is that it requires an observable conflict of interests. The qualification in thestatement above that states that the act that A gets B to is one the B would not otherwise do directly implies that the act isin A's interests, but not in B's. This shows that under this one-dimensional view of power, power occurs only when there is a conflict of interests , and to make this simple for political scientists to observe, the definition is such that it ensures this conflict of interests is observable.It is also the case that a conflict of interests is required in Lukes' two-dimensional view of power. This view is derived from views that attempt to dispute the behaviourist standpoint of the one-dimensional view, but do not fully discount the behavioural aspect of observing power. The main difference between the two- and one- dimensional views of power is that the two-dimensionalview takes into account what Bachrach andBaratz refer to as 'nondecisions '. These arecases where power is exerted by agenda control, such as issues being left off the agenda of political discussion. This means that acts involving power become far moredifficult to observe, in that it may be difficult for a sociologist to discover if a lack of political controversy in one issue is due to a nondecision, i.e. it is simply left offthe agenda by those who decide it, or it is the result of a real consensus. This does not, however, completely remove the behaviourist aspect of power. It would, at least theoretically, be possible for a studentof power, when examining one particular, small-scale act of power, to interview the actor in the power equation and discover ifthere was real consensus, or an instance ofnondecision.In other respects, the two-dimensional view of power is very similar to the one-dimensional view, in that it still requires there to be an observable conflict of interests, although a slightly less easily observed conflict in cases of nondecision. Also, due to the nature of nondecisions, it is no longer necessary for the conflict to beover political issues, but allows for potential issues to be the base of conflict.Lukes puts forward his own thesis on the nature of power in his tree-dimensional view. His addition to the two-dimensional view is that he allows for power in the form of manipulation of people's wants. He claims that this is an example of power at its greatest - the ability of someone to manipulation people's opinions so to keep certain issues off the agenda. This may take many different forms, including the power of educators, spiritual leaders, the mass media, and even simple community pressure, all of which can and do influenceand manipulate us in such a way as to shape our value system and our wants. If itis possible for someone or a group of people to control one or more of these tools of manipulation, then it is clear that they possess power.The addition of this in the three-dimensional view of power has a significant effect on the properties of the definition. Firstly, it is no longer behaviourist. If someone's wants are being manipulated, then their actions may either be indicative of a genuine want in the real interests of that individual, or the result of some form of want manipulation. The three-dimensional view also has significant consequences for the answer of the question above. The possibility of manipulation of wants means that it is no longer possible to observe conflict in all cases of power. This does not mean that, according to the three-dimensional view ofpower, there may be cases of power wherethere is no conflict of interests. Lukes here suggests that there may be a 'latent' conflict between the one with power, and the individual's 'real interests'. These wouldbe interests that only concern the individual - they are purely the result of theindividual's existence, and their own value-system, as opposed to one imposed by a powerful external source.This point raises the question of how best to define a 'conflict of interest', as mentioned in the question. Lukes clearly defines 'real interests' as distinct from an individual's wants, in that he claims that wants can be manipulated by external actors, while an individual's 'real interests' are person specific, and may not be totally consistent with the person's actions. One worry with Lukes use of 'latent' conflict is that it seems to be a possible excuse for tyranny. As In Lukes' three-dimensional view of power it is possible for wants to be manipulated, and for a persons actions to be inconsistent with their 'real interests', then it may be possible for a totalitarian state to manipulate opinions and wants so that the populace believe that the state may oppress and repress in order to ensure that people act in their 'real interests'. It must be noted that in terms ofthe question posed, the three-dimensional view of power still requires there to be a conflict of interests in every case of power,but allows for that conflict to sometimes be in a 'latent' form.The other term that is used in the question that requires definition is 'authority'. Now that the three-dimensional view has been derived, it is possible to define authority in Lukes' terms. In essence, authority is power whereby the individual or group with power, is empowered in full accordance with our value-systems. This means that authority is power we have agreed to have held over us, in other words, the fact that acertain institution has authority does not conflict with our 'real interests'. At this stage, using the definitions defined by Lukes, we must agreed with the statement in the question, that power, unlike authority, occurs only where there is a conflict of interests.It is important at this stage to show that there are other political philosophers who define power in very different terms from Lukes. These difference stem from the fact that Lukes investigates only one of two branches of power often cited by scholars of politics, 'power over' and 'power to'. Lukes thesis is based upon an investigation of how situations can be explained in which one person can be said to have 'power over' another. There are other theses proposed that begin with looking at 'power to'. An example of this is put forward by Talcott Parsons.. These are based in statements such as power as a 'specif

this the view.... Lukes's most famous academic theory is that of the "three faces of power". This theory claims that governments control people in three ways: through decision-making power, non decision-makingpower and ideological power. Decision-making power is the most public of the three faces, and is the manner in which governments wantto be seen: the power of governments to make policy decisions after widespread consultation with opposition partiesand the wider public. Non decision-making power is the power that governments have to control theagendain debates and make certainissues (such as the possible merits of Communism in the United States) unacceptable for discussion in moderate public forums. The third and most important face of power isideologicalpower, which isthe power to influence people's wishes and thoughts, even making them want things opposed to their own self-interest (such as women supporting a patriarchal society).

The Three Dimensions of PowerThe three views of Power previously mentioned are discussedby Lukes in his book,Power: A Radical View. The idea is that the effectiveness and level of power for a given group or individual can be measured by considering certaincriteria. The focuses of these views are discussed at length in Lukes' work, and he offers the Third Dimension as his own view of the shortcomings of the other views previously postulated by others, as well as being a more appropriate way to assess power.The One Dimensional View of Power focuses only on behaviour indecision making, specifically on key issues and essentially only in blatantly observable situations. These often take the form of subjective interests: policy preferences demonstrated through political action.[3]The Two Dimensional View of Power qualifies the First Dimension's critique of behaviour and focuses on decision-making andnondecision-making. It also looks atcurrentandpotential issues and expands the focus on observable conflict to those types that might be observed overtly or covertly. But the Two Dimensional View still focuses on subjective interests, though those seen as policy preferences or even grievances.[4]The Three Dimensional View of Power, offered by Lukes in his work, is a "thoroughgoing critique" of the behavioural focus.[5]It concentrates on the decision-making in a political agenda and thecontrol over that agenda. As in the Two Dimensional View, both current issues and potential issues are considered. But Lukes expands the critique to include both overt and covert observable conflicts, andthose that might be latent. Also, Lukes illustrates that a full critique of power should include both subjective interests and those"real" interests that might be held by those excluded by the political process.[6]

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